Genesis

Day 50

Writer’s Note: I don’t remember if I said this last time, but I really need to hire a typist to transcribe my audio rants. It almost takes longer to transcribe it than it would to have just written it!

As I close Genesis and move into Exodus, I was thinking about things and thinking about how, supposedly, Exodus is “The Second Book of Moses.” So, apparently Moses is the one who transcribed all these books. I don’t know if God literally came down and dictated these books word-for-word, or what, because I haven’t reached that part of the story, where I get to learn about what Moses did.

I was thinking about this, about where this story comes from, where all this information comes from. I really hope that Exodus sheds some light on that and can explain it to me directly, or at least in terms of the Biblical narrative. I’m interested to find this out, and see where it takes me.

The thing is, the Bible is so open to interpretation. There are so many things… it comes out and says quite a few things directly; all of the “Do this,” or “Don’t do that,” you know, “This has changed,” or “This stays the same.” There are a lot of things that appear to be cut-and-dried, but overall there is so much room for interpretation with this book.

In a “perfect” world, it would be perfectly contextualized, but the fact is that it simply is not. Some things that might have made perfect sense thousands of years ago, or made sense in the Greek language to a Greek reader, or made sense in Hebrew to a Hebrew reader… some things that might have made perfect sense aren’t necessarily clear.

My father got a copy of a book from his brother called something along the lines of Misinterpreting Jesus, and I really want to read it. I decided it would be better to wait and skim through it as I go through the New Testament. Apparently, the person who wrote that book looked at old Greek or old Hebrew copies/translations of scripture in order to try to translate things directly rather than constantly translating from translations like some centuries-long telephone game.

I’m very interested to read that book and see how it stands next to the Bible, to see where there are alleged discrepancies in scripture. I believe that yes, there are translation errors in the Bible, but I believe that even those errors exist “for a reason,” so to speak. You couldn’t really expect there to not be translation errors. But on the plus side, in my opinion, there are reasons for it, there are reasons that people want to believe certain things, there are reasons that the stories are told a certain way. The stories have to make sense in a certain context and tell a particular lesson, and if one translation over another gets that across then so be it.

I was just thinking about all this, and about how again, in a “perfect” world, everything that God is, was, and will be, everything that we could know would be infinitely and perfectly contextualized. But it’s not. And that’s the tricky part about our lives, our lives as humans, is that there simply is no measurable, objective context. It’s not like a movie where there is background mood music that tells you how to interpret a particular occurrence. It’s not like a video game where you get a new objective that tells you exactly what to do, when to do it, and why to do it. There is no objective context.

Some people might say, you know… the kind of person that believes in God in a Christian sense, would say that there is an objective context, and God’s will is the context. We’re supposed to interpret everything as God’s will, the things that happen to us, the things that we see, and so on. I understand that, because I obviously like… I have made my peace with God, I talk to God, I accept God. I know that God is and that He is with me, for whatever that means.¹ I know that. It’s not even something– I’m not using the word “believe” because it’s not a belief; I just know that.

I mean, it’s in an abstract sense… I don’t believe that there is a white-bearded man who lives in some physical place. Again, I love the mythology surrounding these ideas, but I don’t– when I understand God as a being, that’s not what comes to mind. Anyway.

To me, I can put things into that context. I can say that even a bad experience has its merits, because we can look at it through the eyes of growth; we can look at experiences with a desire to learn and grow and we can get something out of them. It is possible to see the silver lining behind the cloud.

To me, that’s the context. But I also understand that that is an entirely subjective context that is based on my experiences an my worldview, and that other people don’t have that context, necessarily. Not everybody sees the world that way.

Obviously I’m a little biased, but in my opinion it’s a pretty healthy worldview. I don’t condone “evil” acts, or acts of cruelty against fellow humans or animals. I don’t condone “bad” things, because there are a lot of terrible things in the world that cause a lot of hurt to a lot of people. And I don’t like it necessarily, I– I don’t like it. I don’t like that people suffer, I don’t like that people… that people “repay evil for good,” to quote Gen 44:4, I don’t like that people do harm to one another.

At the same time, these experiences are all… it’s a natural progression. Does that make them “good” in a human sense? No. Just because they are a natural progression of miserable, victimized people miserably victimizing other people, hurting ourselves and hurting others, making people suffer, bringing injustice upon one another… I don’t think the fact that this is a natural progression of events makes it “good” in a human sense. Obviously, this is all perpetuating the cycle of suffering.

But in a cosmic sense… the fact that these things happen, the world doesn’t just change at the flip of a switch, and oftentimes when I’m in some strange scenario, or something happens that doesn’t go my way, or something that I’m not thrilled with, I look at the circumstances that led up to it and I see that it couldn’t have happened any other way. Here I am; if things could have gone differently, they would have. But from A→B→C→D, we have this progression of events and this is just how it happened.

The important thing is to be as conscious as possible as things are happening within us and around us, so that we can make good decisions, so that we can be responsible and we can have awareness to do the best we can with our circumstances, to will ourselves to do better.

My point is, even though, like the world, the way we understand it from a human perspective, anyway… though our world be flawed, though we be mired in sin, though we be mired in shame, guilt, victimization, and blame… how could it be any other way? And just so with the Bible.

People translating over years and years, languages and meanings changing, and so on and so forth… The language has changed, the interpretations have changed, and what was known and understood several thousand years ago is not necessarily understood today. We do the best we can with what we’ve got. And you know, we’re trying to make it work.

This is why I want my own interpretation. This is why I want to dig through the scriptures and translations and figure out “What does this mean for me, me specifically?” Because this all means a lot of things to a lot of people, and when I went to church on Easter, I got to see that, and I got to feel that, and I got to remember that. And that was good. I remembered why this is so important to so many people, and I remembered why people get so touchy and so defensive about it: because it’s a big deal.

The interpretation that people have of the Bible and of life is very important to them, the narrative that to which they subscribe… it becomes an important part of their identity. I understand that because the way that I interpret the Bible is unique to me. The eyes with which I see it, the mind with which I understand it has never ever been duplicated in the history of time.

This moment that I am experiencing from my perspective is one hundred percent unique. No one else is sitting where I am sitting, no one else is seeing what I am seeing in the way that I am seeing it.

My interpretation, and the meaning that the Bible brings to my life, these things are unique to me. And… and… in that sense, how could it be any other way?

All is as it should be.


See you tomorrow in Exodus, folks.

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://youtu.be/32FB-gYr49Y?t=1m16s
You’re so welcome.

Advertisements

Day 49

I can’t find my Bible again. I honestly don’t know where that darn thing keeps ending up! I do have access to the Internet (obviously) and I do have the New World Translation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s something! But I do want to find my NKJV before my camping trip.

I worked with one of my clients yesterday; he’s only nine but he’s a really good kid. I don’t know what it is about him but I get a really good vibe, a really powerful vibe. He’s one of the only clients and indeed one of the few people I’ve ever met that seems totally contented in the silence of his own mind. I feel like I could learn a lot from him, even if he doesn’t consciously realize it. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s a good listener, and I’ve found that the latter is much more important than the former.

We went hiking and it was wonderful, the sun was setting, the wind was blowing, and it was growing cold and dark. We didn’t stay for very long since it got a little creepy for him (and me too, admittedly), but it was a good experience and I got a few photos and an inspiration for some writing, which is always a bonus. I do need to start carrying a “real” camera with me, and not just using my phone all the time. This thing is great during the day but in any kind of low light, the picture quality is terrible.

Without further ado…

sunset over cityscape

Ghosts of the Mountain

City lights
From mountainside
Flicker as
The sunset dies
The wind behind
I close my eyes
I’m falling…

I crossed paths with one of the old guardians
His time had come, and yet
He had never relinquished his post
Never abandoned his duty
Instead, while flesh had failed him
He could see what the others could not
And the shadows that danced out of sight
Were clear to him in death
His own slender bones
Seemed a mocking crown
And though his roots grasped at dust
He stood fast
Watching the comings and goings of the night
The crescent moon watched as well
And when I called for silence
Even the wind obeyed.

shadowwatcher


Genesis 49

Honestly, after writing that business, I have really no desire to break down Genesis 49. The point is, I read it, Jacob says something to each of his sons on his deathbed, and in the end he passes away.

One interesting takeaway from Gen 49 is that Jacob is described as blessing his sons, “each one according to his own blessing” (Gen 49:28). The interesting thing is that with the first three, Reuben followed by the brothers Simon and Levi, the things Jacob says would not be considered “blessings” in a modern sense.

But this is the life that these children have been granted; Jacob merely observes the truth and probably speaks with a spirit of prophecy. In this sense, in the sense that Jacob reveals truth, then indeed these are blessings, because he, with his wisdom and knowledge, sheds light on the lives and futures of his sons, even the less righteous ones. Truly, with knowledge and awareness of themselves they are blessed.

Tonight is my last night that will be spent reading/analyzing Genesis. I’m going to knock out Genesis 50, the closing chapter, and be off to bed.

Farewell, all. Peace be upon you.

 

Day 48

Sweet Jesus, we’re almost done with Genesis. I have such a headache, and I’m so tired right now, but still I’m up typing away…

This project, combined with my new job, is going to be the most trying and demanding thing I’ve ever had to do. Maybe this hectic week will be good for me; if I retire early tonight and wake up early, I can start fresh and write my Day 49 post early, before I have to work all day. And the next day. And the next day.

You know, I’m going out of town in less than three weeks, and I cannot wait. I’m going camping, and I’m going to be away from the computer for about 7 or 8 days. I’ll be bringing my Bible and a notepad with me on the camping trip, and I’ll read and write every day. But the posting is going to have to wait til I get back. I think it’ll be a really nice vacation; I can’t wait to turn my phone off for a week; it’s always buzzing with texts and emails… Days like today, I just want a little silence. As soon as I’m done with this post, I shall have it.


Genesis 48

Joseph brings his sons to meet his dying father, Jacob. Jacob/Israel takes the children close to him, recounts his vision of God and the promises therefrom, and says this (Gen 49:5-6):

And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this, so I visited our old friend Matthew Henry. Haven’t heard from him in a while. He makes the point that Jacob “adopts” Ephraim and Manasseh to carry on the promises of God, to carry on the blessings, to live a godly life rather than an earthly one. Jacob wants the two boys “to know, that it is better to be low, and in the church, than high, and out of it.”¹

Jacob then blesses the boys, placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the older. Joseph tells his father essentially that he is confused or mistaken in his blessings, but Jacob speaks “from a spirit of prophecy,” according to Matthew Henry. Jacob knows that, just as with his life and his brother, the younger shall surpass the older in the eyes of God.

Here is Jacob’s blessing to the boys (Gen 49:15-16):

“God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

I like the second and third lines; the second because God has cared for Jacob all the way up til now, almost out of expectation or a leading-up to his death. Also, because this chapter made me think about it, I realized that there has been no mention of anyone dying and going to Heaven. The only mention of “heaven” throughout Genesis seems to be used to mean “sky,” and the only person who has had anything else happen to him besides death is Enoch, for if you recall, “God took him” back in Genesis 5:24.

As far as the third line goes, I was confused as to “The Angel.” Obviously this figure is equated with God, which made me think of the idea of the Trinity and all the appearances of the “Angel of the Lord” throughout Genesis. Both Matthew Henry and John Wesley equate this figure with Jesus Christ, “the Angel of the covenant.” 1,2

It is interesting to see all these interpretations of the appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. Someday I should like to talk to a Rabbi or a Jewish scholar about all of this and see what their take on it is.

Anyway, I’m calling it an early night. I love you all; peace be upon you.

Good night.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=48&com=mhc

² Wesley, John. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=wes&b=1&c=48

Day 47

Genesis 47

I know I’m behind, but Genesis 47 is just not all that interesting! I’m really looking forward to Exodus and some new stories.

Joseph talks to Pharaoh and gets land and bread for his brothers, his father, and their families.

Then Egypt runs into this horrible inflationary scenario where no one has any more money to buy bread. Joseph has people trade first their livestock, then a year later he has them trade in their land. Seems that Joseph invents the feudal system.

They give him control over the land, he provides seed, they do the farming, keep 4/5 of everything and give 1/5 to the state. The priests are the only people in Egypt who do not cede control of their land to Pharaoh.

As Genesis 47 draws to a close, Israel has reached one hundred and forty-seven years of age. He knows he will die, and he asks Joseph to bury him in the land of his fathers. Joseph says that he will do as his father has asked.

Israel says some stuff back (Gen 47:31)…

And so endeth Genesis 47.

 

Day 46

Hoo-rah and hallelujah, I am officially caught up.  Tomorrow will be Day 47, as it should be.

Today’s Medicine Card was really interesting; I had a sneaking suspicion that today’s card would be upright as opposed to contrary and I was correct. My card was Prairie Dog, and Prairie Dog has to do with “Retreat.” The book explains this as removing yourself from situations, taking time to recuperate. Could not have been more appropriate for this nice day off that I enjoyed.

Got some laundry done, got to hang out with my friends… stayed up a little too late but, oh well. Gotta write.

We’re winding down Genesis, so let’s get this show on the road.


Genesis 46

Israel heads down to Beersheba to make an offering to God; God speaks to him and tells him that He “will make of [him] a great nation” in Egypt (Genesis 46:3).

Jacob goes down to Egypt and takes all his descendents and children and so forth, and it is here that we are treated to nearly twenty verses of genealogy.

I really wonder about all this genealogy stuff. I mean, I know the point is (so I’m told) to be able to trace the lineage of Jesus Christ, and from an accommodation or condescension perspective it could just exist so that people understood in the simplest terms that God created the world and created mankind and here’s the genealogy written down to prove it.

But if you do the math, and I haven’t, but just looking it up gives me a little bit of a headache. If you’re really interested, just Google it and you’ll find it no time. Anyway, if you do the math, supposedly the age you get for the earth (assuming that each “day” in Genesis is a 24-hour day), the age is around 6000 years. One website backed this claim up by saying that most cultures have histories going back about that far.

This is the thing that gets me about that, and I realize this is quickly becoming a long aside, is that around that time period, let’s say 4000 BC to 2000 BC, that’s when writing was being invented. That’s the time period when people could record their history, as opposed to just telling stories or using whatever language looked like six thousand years ago.

Even then, it’s been nearly impossible to preserve a document or a language in its original form, and I don’t see how this would be any different in the past. From the time of Adam to the time of, say, Moses is a really long time. Even if they were able to write things down, over several hundred to a thousand years, language changes, writing changes… things change.

I’ve brought up stuff like this with my partner and others and the answer I usually get is that God “makes sure,” essentially, that the message is intact. This much I agree with, because it’s obvious to me even if it seems silly that the Bible exists in its current form for a reason.

There is so much more I want to talk about, but my feeling is to save it for another day.

Anyway, we get the genealogy, Israel is reunited with his son Joseph, we learn that shepherds aren’t welcome in Egypt (Or something. Gen 43:34) and so the family will go live in the land of Goshen, where they can just go and do their thing.

So I haven’t been able to much about this phrasing in the past, I think, but I really like that when people are contacted by God, the common response from these Old Testament patriarchs is “Here I am.” It won’t be until Exodus somewhere that we learn about “I AM,” but when you know that and look back, they are responding to God with His own name.

The “here” to me serves as a great reminder of living in the Now, of living fully in the present moment, of being present when God or the universe speaks to you. If nothing else, when God spoke, these men listened.

In truth, as it has been shown to me, God speaks with us all the time. It is only when we stop, collaborate, and listen (couldn’t resist), when we pause the fascination we have with future and past, when we awaken to the moment that is Now and say, “Here I am”… that is when we hear  and notice God. The act of being present is a communion with God and with ourselves.

Also, since “I AM” is a name of God, it’s like responding when someone calls your name. If Steve calls your name, you could say, “Here, Steve!” So in the Bible, we have people responding with “Here, I AM!”

First explanation, deep and spiritual. Second explanation, humorous and irreverent (but not terribly so). As far as I can see, God still has a sense of humor. As long as He never loses His, I’ll never lose mine.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 45

Time to get up to speed on some Genesis! Ooh yeah!


Genesis 44

Long story short, Joseph decides to screw with his brothers some more. As they’re leaving, he loads their bags with money, and puts his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Joseph tells his steward to follow them and accuse them of stealing.

The brothers are basically like, “Are you serious? We were honest and brought your money back. Why would we steal from you? Fine, you know what? If you find this stolen silver or whatever, then you can just go right ahead and enslave whoever has it.” At this point, after what happened last time, I don’t know why they didn’t search their bags beforehand.

Then the steward is all, “Alright, man. Slaves it is. By the way, Benjamin had this silver cup. Slavery, HOOO!”

The brothers tear their clothes out of grief and return to the city.

The last part of Gen 44 is Judah recounting their entire story to Joseph, including the conversation they had with their father before leaving, and the father’s extreme sorrow should Benjamin not return. Judah finally asks to stay in place of Benjamin rather than return and watch his father die from grief.

Favorite Quotes:

“Why have you repaid evil for good?”

— Joseph, Genesis 44:4

“What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?”

— Joseph to his brothers, Genesis 44:15

The first quote is a question that I feel ought to be asked of many people, and in a larger sense, of the whole human race. The fact that we are granted life and will, granted the ability to have a human experience and explore this amazing world is good. Scratch that. It’s full-on capital-G Good. It is a goodness and a truth that we are alive and that we exist. But why, as a species, as a people, have we repaid this goodness and truth with evil? Why have we disrespected our brothers and sisters, why have we disrespected the earth upon which we live?

If you ask the Catholics, we are all tainted by Original Sin by virtue of birth, but I prefer a more psychological explanation that requires fewer assumptions. It seems fairly evident to me that we have people who are raised by imperfect parents and they grow up to be imperfect people. This is normal; no one is perfect. The problem is that insecurities arise, prejudices arise, assumptions arise, and hatreds arise. People lack respect and love for their fellow man, they lack understanding, and so we gossip, we despise, we are cruel to one another. We lash out to protect ourselves, but we perpetuate a cycle of pain. Why have we repaid evil for Good? It is a damn shame, but at this point in time, it could not be any other way.

The second quote just sounds intense. Something I could picture being read by Jules Winnfield (as played by Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, of course). “Did you not KNOW that such a man as I… can cer-tain-ly practice di-vi-na-tion?”

juleswinn

“N*gga, you really gonna drag me into this mess?” ¹

Hell yes, I am.


Genesis 45

Joseph finally breaks down after Judah pleads his case for his father’s life and the freedom of his brother, speaking passionately for he is truly his brother’s keeper. (See what I did there?) Joseph sends away all his servants and reveals himself to his brothers.

This is my favorite part of this story because Joseph tells his brothers not to grieve or be angry. He tells them it was good that he was sent to Egypt, because now with his ability to interpret dreams he has saved many people from famine and has provided for his family. He tells his brothers that it was God, not they, who landed him in Egypt. I like this because it is a Biblical illustration of the idea of little miracles adding up to bigger ones.

  1. Brothers become jealous of Joseph
  2. Brothers decide to sell Joseph to Midianites make money
  3. Joseph is sold in Egypt to the captain of the guard
  4. Joseph distinguishes himself in the house of his master, but is imprisoned from a false claim by the master’s wife
  5. Joseph meets Pharaoh’s butler and baker, who had landed themselves in prison
  6. Joseph interprets their dreams, the butler is freed
  7. Joseph is forgotten until the Pharaoh has a strange dream two years later
  8. The butler remembers Joseph and he is brought before Pharaoh
  9. Joseph becomes a trusted adviser with great power and is able to mitigate the effects of the coming famine
  10. Joseph is able to provide for his family during the famine and is reunited with his brothers.

Literally, God could have made this really easy and straightforward, but this is not the way the universe works. All these little things, the infidelity of the wife, the crime of the butler, etc., all these things had to add up over time to put Joseph in exactly the right place. This is the miracle, that all of these people, including him, his brothers, and everyone else… their actions collectively resulted in the new present moment. When a man becomes like a king, it seems more miraculous, but these patterns are all around us, even in the most mundane of places.

Joseph tells his brothers to retrieve his father and family, and that they will dwell in the land of Goshen and be provided for. Pharaoh hears all this and promises Joseph that he will help him take care of his father.

The brothers get back and tell the story to their father, who can scarcely believe it. When he sees the carts laden with food and grain, he knows that there is truth in their words, and vows to see Joseph, his son, before he passes on.


¹ Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino. 1994 Miramax Films. Image accessed from http://mattfinchmediastudies.blogspot.com/2011/01/characterisation-jules-winnfield.html

Day 44

Writer’s Note: This was recorded yesterday and is being transcribed today, obviously. I didn’t get much sleep last night either.

It’s been a really interesting, busy week. I did my reading yesterday and I transcribed the previous day’s writing, but I didn’t get to make my post. I didn’t do it. I’ve been so tired, so beat, and today is the day that I pick myself up and say today I will do better. Today I will reaffirm what I need to do. I will do better, so today I’m playing catch up with work, with my blog, I’m going to get some sleep… I’m playing catch up with my life.

Today I had an interesting conversation; I was talking to some of my coworkers about alcoholism and alcohol problems, especially in regards to Native Americans. Two of my coworkers are Navajo and they’ve seen a great deal of alcohol abuse and problems firsthand. One of my other coworkers who is white, she asked, “Isn’t it true that Native Americans don’t process alcohol the same way?” And I was confused and was about to say something, but I asked my coworkers if this was true. One of my Navajo coworkers said it was. I knew Asians had that issue, but I didn’t realize that it was a trait they had in common with Native Americans. Apparently it is.

This white girl starts talking about how she’s really “spiritual” and… she basically started talking about how spirituality leads your DNA to vibrate at higher frequencies and so your body rejects things like alcohol and drugs. I wasn’t even sure what to say to that at first. I don’t know, man. I’ve heard some pretty New-Agey stuff in my day, and I can’t imagine there’s any kind of scientific or rational backing for that. The idea of sympathetic vibrations of energy is a pretty metaphysical concept in and of itself, but to use it as a broad generalization for why Asians, who, to loosely quote her, are “a very spiritual people,” and Native Americans have a low tolerance for alcohol… like this is somehow carried down through the generations because of their intense spirituality… I don’t even know.

Every time I hear something like that, I think back to my little fictitious illustration/idea/thought experiment that is “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago,” and the idea that everything sprung up into existence, fully-formed, five minutes ago, and is designed on purpose to look as though it has existed for much longer than that. I was just thinking about unprovable things, and seriously how could you ever prove this idea of DNA that “vibrates” on higher spiritual frequencies? To say that all Asian culture and all Native culture is spiritual… and I get the idea, but this does not ring true to me. Honestly, it sounds ridiculous. Sympathetic vibrations make for great metaphors, but in my opinion they don’t make for good biology. It doesn’t make for good biological and sociological policy to just wave away this whole issue of alcohol intolerance as some kind of voodoo bullsh*t in your DNA.

keithdavid

You rang? ¹

I don’t really know what DNA has to do with it, anyway. Your liver processes alcohol. Higher states of being, I get that idea, at least the idea of “higher” levels of consciousness, but I don’t think we’re transcending our own physical form. I could see from a psychological standpoint, and this is what I said in response, is that the psychological benefits of having a healthy spirituality, can lead you away from seeking temporary pleasures in substances, from running away from your troubles and looking for escape in alcohol or drugs. A healthy sense of self and a sense of your place in the universe, those are things that when you don’t have them, you feel lost or lonely or empty, and you turn to something, be it drugs or alcohol, to numb it or escape it.

But I think that someone with a healthy sense of self can either avoid or control themselves around those substances. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with “elevated vibrations.” On one hand, this could be me getting defensive because I feel as though I’ve had some pretty enlightening experiences, and I’m doing my best to put what I’ve learned from these experiences into practice. I’m not going to use her word, “ascension,” but I do have a strong sense of my place in the world. I look around me even in this very moment and I revel in everything I see and smell and feel, and it’s great; I see God everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling, to feel God within myself. I do my best to remind myself that God is with all of us, and that there are so many different people, different vessels for this energy of consciousness that I call God, this vast Being that everybody is. It’s amazing, you know? I see that everywhere.

Maybe I’m getting defensive, because if what she says is true, then I shouldn’t be affected (or should be sickened, even) by alcohol or any drug-like substances. She says that when you’re enlightened, supposedly “toxins,” like alcohol, make you sick. So here’s my meta-reasoning, here:

  1. I consider myself to be living in at least a semi-enlightened state.
  2. Those who have “ascended” to higher “levels” cannot tolerate things like alcohol.
  3. I can tolerate alcohol, and it does not in reasonable quantities make me sick.
    1. If living in an enlightened state is Q, and being able to tolerate alcohol is P…
    2. My coworker’s assertion is that Q → ¬P. (If Q, then not P.)
    3. My case is P…
    4. ∴ ¬Q
  4. Therefore, I must not be as enlightened as I think I am. (Also I really wanted an excuse to use some logical notation.)

Maybe it’s just me being defensive, but I just don’t accept her statements. I see no proof, no evidence, no reason to believe all of that. The thing I like about “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago” is that it shows at once the limitations of science (because it can never be disproved) but it also shows the fallacy of accepting a lack of dis-confirmation as confirmation. Just because I can’t prove that the DNA of an enlightened person “vibrates” at some higher frequency doesn’t mean that it explains why Asians and American Indians don’t tolerate alcohol.

One of my Navajo coworkers is Christian, and she doesn’t want to take peyote because of the potential for abuse, or whatever the Christian deal is with avoiding drugs.² My partner has explained it to me, if I remember correctly, that people avoid them because of the behaviors that can result therefrom, or because when you lose control of your mind/body, then you open the door for “evil things” to come in, be that demonic forces or the devil’s influence or what have you. Admittedly, that’s kind of a scary thought…

Actually, as an aside, while I’m jumping from topic to topic, I mentioned to one of my clients (a ten-year-old boy) that I’m not scared of anybody. This one client, he’s really interesting. He’s said some weird, out-of-context religious stuff from time to time. He said something about being afraid of the devil. I said, “Why? Why should I be scared of the devil?” I trust God, why should I be afraid? I’ll see how I even feel about “The Devil” as a concept when I’m done with the Bible.

The idea of the devil as a mythological concept, that’s amazing. I love the whole conflict and the idea of a devil as far as a mythological opposition to the power of God. The idea of a devil as a strong metaphor, even, for all the ills of the world. I get that, that’s powerful.

But this kid tells me I should be afraid of the devil. But I’m not. Why would I be? I trust in God. I am strong in God, and I know I have nothing to fear. I feel like my “soul,” whatever you believe that to be, is protected. I feel like if you trust in God, you can realize this divine sort of energy within you and be protected. I understand that there is temptation in the world, and there are what I would consider “evil presences” or “dark presences.” I would use the term “dark presence” and say that there is such a thing, again based on my personal experience. I don’t know if that came from within my own mind or if it is some external supernatural evil, I can’t speak to the cause… Just like I told this woman at work, I can’t speak to the metaphysics of spirituality; I don’t f***in’ know.

I just think that my ultimate point here is that I am not afraid. There are times when this body, this vessel has fear, and that is understandable. There are moments of tension or anxiety, but overall in a big sense, I am not afraid. I have God on my side, and my spirituality is such that I see God all the time, and I feel the presence of God with me all the time. I’m not always paying attention, but every time I pause to look around, and see trees and other people, and the dirt of the ground, and grasses and bushes and I see all this color and this energy, and for me it all ties back to these things being different reflections of God.

I was talking to a very close friend of mine last night about spirituality and about my personal experiences that I’ve had… every single idea that is important to me about spirituality, about God, every single truth that I hold is based entirely on my own experience. I like that, and I don’t want to sound cocky or sound like I think I’m better than other people, but these ideas are all based on things I have felt or visions I have had or something I have read or experienced.³ To me, the details don’t really matter.

Obviously, yes, you should learn about things you can’t experience for yourself, but ultimately the whole “spiritual vibrations” thing, for example, seems like it doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can look at genetics and look at enzymes that deal with alcohol that are not present or as present in Asian or Native culture. You can look at the cause and see why this appears to be the case. I think coming up with some weird metaphysical reason… I understand that we often want to believe that there is more to this reality than we can see, and in my opinion there is, but that doesn’t mean, for example, that I think people should follow an arbitrary set of rules to get to some external Heaven.

Everything that I’m concerned about is practical, it is for here and it is for now. Everything I want to learn and teach is information that I think people can use to make their lives more enjoyable and more functional. It’s information that doesn’t have a downside, information that will lead to positive changes in your life, information that will lead you to acceptance, love, and respect. That’s the kind of thing I can promote because I can promote it with a good conscience. I know that the things I have to share with people will bring about good changes.

I have no reason to believe otherwise because I’ve seen it for myself and I’ve seen it in other people, and I’ve heard the message that rings true for me, repeated by wise, happy, healthy people. Part of why I’m reading the Bible is so I can understand it and accept it with no contradictions. I hope to spread all of what I learn, and I hope to serve other people so that they can find their own truths the way that I’ve found mine. It means a lot, and I will make it happen.


¹ The Thing, Directed by John Carpenter. 1982, Universal Pictures. Image accessed from http://www.zuguide.com/image/Keith-David-The-Thing.7.jpg

² Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” — Matthew 15:10-11, NIV

³ I do suppose, looking back, that most of what other people believe is what rings true for them. I just… I think some people stick with what they were told when they were young and refuse to learn or be open to the possibility of anything new. Hand-waving away any contrary evidence or criticism does not make one’s faith appear strong.
As has been said before, sometimes with pride/disrespect, “If your faith can move mountains, it should be able to withstand criticism.” Obviously some people don’t feel the need to rationally defend their faith, but for my faith to ring true, it had to be as rational as it is spiritual.

Day 43

THE END IS NIGH!

The end of Genesis, that is. Genesis only goes up to 50 or so chapters, so in a few days I’ll be knee-deep in Exodus. Looking forward to it.

Time to play catch up.


Genesis 42

Jacob knows that Egypt has plenty of grain, but it seems that given what his sons did to Joseph, they exchange a series of worried glances when Jacob mentions Egypt. Jacob/Israel sends his sons to buy grain. Long story short, Joseph recognizes his brothers but they do not recognize him. He accuses them of being spies and says that they must bring their youngest brother back with them, and that they must leave one of their number there. Benjamin, the youngest, was told to stay at home by Jacob, “Lest some calamity befall him” (Genesis 42:4).

After this demand, they realize that they are being punished, essentially, for what they did to Joseph in the past. It seems that their deeds have caught up to them. Reuben condemns them with several Biblically-worded I-told-you-so’s.

So Joseph holds Simeon there, he gives his brothers grain, and their money back, and the brothers go back and tell their father what happened. The brothers are worried that there is some kind of trick or trap awaiting them when they find all their money has been restored, and their father is afraid. Reuben promises that Benjamin and Simeon both will be safe.

Favorite Quote:

“Do this and live, for I fear God.”

— Joseph, Genesis 42:18

I spoke previously about the different meanings of the Hebrew word “yirah,” which is often translated as “fear.” Joseph’s point here seems to me to be that who shows respect and humility to God, and as such his word can be trusted.


Genesis 43

Israel is reluctant to send his youngest son with the boys, and so they refrain from returning to Egypt. Once all the grain is gone, they no longer have much choice. Israel gets upset at his children for having told Joseph that they had another brother, but it really wasn’t their fault. Judah finally convinces his father to send all of them, and Israel gives them gifts to bring to Joseph in hopes that he will be appeased.

Once they arrive in Egypt, Joseph has them taken into his house, and his brothers are afraid. They say in Genesis 43:18,

“It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”

They speak with Joseph’s steward and explain the situation and the misunderstanding, but he tells them there is no need to worry and returns Simeon to them before bringing them into the house. Joseph came out to meet them and spoke with them and then they sat to eat.

Joseph arranged them, “the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another” (Genesis 43:33). Joseph, knowing his brother’s ages, seats them accordingly. To them, this is shaping up to be some Twilight Zone business. Joseph serves Benjamin five times as much as anybody else, and they all eat and drink happily.

Favorite Quote:

“If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

— Israel, Genesis 43:14

Here we see Israel the father finally stop denying what needs to be done and turning his circumstances over to the grace of God. You know, for a family that has had so much interaction with the Lord, they sure do have their struggles with faith.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 42

Writer’s note: I recorded this verbally last night and am now transcribing it. It just feels better for me to explain this since I’m running behind.

Good God. Here I am at 3:16 in the morning, appropriately enough, thinking about what I’m going to write today. I mean, technically I’m writing yesterday’s post, but honestly, after the day I’ve had, too bad. It’ll go up hopefully before dawn, and that’s good enough for me. Tomorrow isn’t quite here yet, so whatever.

So I was thinking about Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams. The dreams that Pharaoh has, he sees seven healthy fat cows, and then seven, ugly, gaunt, skinny cows, and they eat the fat cows, and leave no trace of them. Same thing with stalks of wheat, he sees like seven stalks of wheat and then seven shriveled stalks, or whatever, and the seven shriveled stalks devour the seven full, healthy, stalks. Then his butler, or cupbearer, depending on your translation, remembers, “Oops, hey, Pharaoh, there was a guy in prison that I was totally supposed to tell you about who can interpret dreams.”

Pharaoh goes, “Okay, well, send for him.”

Joseph comes, and he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. He says, you know, Pharaoh tells him the dreams, and Joseph tells him, “Look, you know, God showed you twice in your dream God showed you two times in your dream to make it real clear. Here’s what’s gonna go down: you’re going to have seven years of plenty, of riches, and you’re going to have seven years of famine. The seven years of famine are going to completely swallow up the seven years of riches and plenty so that not you nor anyone else will even be able to tell that there ever were seven years of plenty.”

So, Pharaoh realizes how wise this guy is, and he can tell that Joseph is a man of God and of great wisdom, and thus, power, and so Pharaoh basically makes him second only to Pharaoh over all of Egypt. He’s basically like, “You’re going to be my right hand man, you’re going to sit here… I need a guy like you to help me.”

Joseph makes sure that during the seven years of plenty, they store up until their stores are full to bursting. He says, “Alright, we’ve got all this stuff. We’re good to go.” When the seven years of famine come, he sells the grain and sells from the stores. People all over are suffering from this famine and Joseph sells from their stock, and despite the famine, they prosper.

So I was thinking about my own dreams, and such, and I thought it was really interesting, because it took me til today, when I was beaten down and exhausted from twelve hours of working and driving and herding children… and it wasn’t until this morning that I… Well, alright. I’ve had a similar thing happen in my dreams twice. Like the way the Pharaoh had seven rich and seven lean and so on, I had two separate dreams, months apart, where I strangled a man to death. My first thought after reading Genesis 41 was, “Am I going to strangle somebody to death? Am I going to get into a position where I have to kill a man with my bare hands?” But I realized in my dreams, the people that I strangled to death were “bad guys.”

The first one was an unidentified agent of a supernatural evil, like, there was a hint in my dream that he was actually a demonic figure. He looked like a man but he was either possessed by some evil force or he was some evil creature in disguise. The second one was a high-ranking Nazi officer, and yeah, I get it, in real life Nazis were human beings and so on, but in my dream, he was an evil man. So, I didn’t realize until just this morning that in both cases, I was snuffed out an evil life.

And see, in real life I’m sort of a pacifist. I don’t think really it’s right to take a human life. I don’t think that’s our call to make. It’s like every man, woman, and child is a world unto themselves, and each person represents something sacred and special. But anyway…

I don’t really think, unless it was an extreme case of self-defense, I don’t think I could bring myself to kill somebody, especially by like, choking them or strangling them with my bare hands.

handsomejack1

“No, no, Jimmy, choking is something you do when you eat too fast. What I’m doing is actually referred to as ‘strangling.'” ¹

The thing I realized this morning as I was leaving my house for work is that in these dreams, I am triumphing over evil. This is the dream that God is showing me, I feel. It just came to me in a moment of inspiration. It was just all of a sudden clear as day, and I went, “Oh, that’s what it means. Duh!” It’s triumphing over evil.

I thought about it for a minute and I was like, “Ooh! Do I conquer all the evils of the world?” and I realized that’s not really realistic, but what I feel that it means that I will conquer the evil within myself. And that’s a pretty satisfying answer; I’m pretty satisfied with that. I mean, I’d like to shoot for conquering more evil, you know, in the world. You know, some bigger evil, some grand-scale evil in the world, and really help eliminate some wickedness and suffering here or there, but conquering the evil within myself would be pretty great. That’s the dream that God has shown me, and I feel pretty good about that.

So if I ever have a dream where I strangle a guy to death, let’s hope he’s a bad guy, because seriously, I need some consistency here, God. But I think two times is all I needed, and of course the second time comes just a few days ago, right before I read Genesis 41, where Pharaoh has two dreams with a parallel meaning, and it’s just interesting, it’s so funny how these things work themselves out.

This is, like, my life: funny not-coincidences. But for as weird as it is and how little I understand it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


¹ Borderlands 2, Gearbox Software and 2K games. Image accessed from http://leviathyn.com/opinion/2012/12/21/why-handsome-jack-is-my-antagonist-of-the-year/

Day 41

I read me some Genesis 41 today, and we’re dealing with Joseph as the interpreter of dreams as instructed or inspired by God. But I want to talk about something else today, and only briefly.

This song is another one of those that you’re probably sick of if you listen to the radio often. I do not, and I love it. It’s just so catchy! I had déjà vu when I heard it because I swear I’d heard it before.

If I had to guess, I’d say the song had to do with the ups and downs and struggles of love and relationships. But I really like the first thing she says:

“All the broken hearts in the world still beat.”

— Ingrid Michaelson, Girls Chase Boys

This is a beautiful truth and it speaks to me in many ways. The thing that comes to mind most readily relates to a conversation that I had with a coworker at a restaurant. We were both servers, and most of the people there were miserable. It was hard to see so many people just bitter and hurting with nowhere to go.

We were talking one day, this woman and I, and something came up about denial. I said something about how I didn’t think it was a very good strategy. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me.

“When I work all day at this job and go home exhausted to my little daughter and I have to put a smile on my face even though I want to kill myself, denial is the only thing I have to get through it.”

I shut up pretty fast. But if I could go back to that conversation, I would say that I don’t consider denial to be a healthy long-term strategy. In the short term, we all have to bite the bullet sometimes and get by. But I can’t imagine doing it for years and years of misery with no progress toward anything. How? How does anyone live that way?

I understand time’s habit of getting away from us; I really do. I just officiated a wedding for someone I knew when I was like, five years old. Now we’re older, she’s getting married, and I still have memories from back then in my head. It’s so weird to think of all the things that have changed (at least so it seems, from my human perspective).

But this song… so many people in this world that are just crushed or beaten down or heartbroken… and yet like my coworker, they press on. They push through each and every day because they feel they have to. I am reminded here of Mother Teresa, who just straight-up lost her faith and felt abandoned by God, but still stuck to her mission and helped so many people and did so much good. Is it possible that denial got her through?

To me, functional denial is like functional alcoholism: even if you’re getting by, you still have a problem. Active denial is the worst kind of lie: a lie to oneself, an abandonment or rejection of the pure unadulterated Truth of life. It is avoidance of reality and of one’s own feelings. But I understand it.

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote that the “denial system” is important because it allows us to function even if we are hurt. But a healthy mind has neither need nor room for denial. A healthy mind is filled with acceptance of what Is and rolls with the punches. A healthy mind formulates a plan or does something to get out of a bad situation, or deals with that situation with serenity and grace.

So, to quote Ingrid Michaelson again, “Let’s not make it harder than it has to be.” Let’s search within ourselves, let’s forgive ourselves and others, let’s accept today for what it is, and let’s do our best, knowing that our best will get better.

Let’s mend these broken hearts of ours as best we can, and let the wholeness and completeness within make our hearts beat even louder and stronger. Let’s allow our strong hearts to speak for themselves by demonstrating a life of compassion, expression of ourselves, love, respect, and generosity. Let’s show all of these things, so that the broken hearts will see that is is possible to be healed. Let’s extend our healing hearts to others, let’s show them a beautiful world, let’s show them the grace, unity, and power that comes at once from Above and from Within.

Go out, and spread the Word.

Peace be upon you.